Shawn Faust has been painting for about 25 years. His passion for horses has driven his work – and it all starts with the eyes.
The eyes are very important to Shawn, and seem to give his paintings a soul.
In 1995 Shawn studied with Dan Green in New York, he remembers the last day of class and the profound impact it had on him. “I remember the last day of class he [Dan] emphasized it’s all about the eyes. Go find a cow, a deer or a horse and paint their eyes,” Shawn recalled. With those words a long dormant love of horses came back to him.
Shawn remembers as a child the first time he laid eyes on a horse, “I was mesmerized, it’s something about the horse. When you stand next to the first horse as a kid, I was just in awe.”
A recent encounter with a horse Shawn was painting brought all those memories back to him. “I recently painted a Clydesdale, standing next to that enormous horse took me right back, all my senses to that first day and I was a kid again,” Shawn says.
Shawn Faust’s studio is filled with what seem to be photographs of beautiful horses, jockeys, cows, foxes and other wildlife. After closer inspection, there are brushstrokes of a painting, and Shawn doesn’t mind if viewers can’t tell the difference. “That’s a good thing. God created this world so beautiful, I really don’t want to mess it up,” Shawn said.
From the light on the horses’ muscles, to the swish of its tail, there is almost the smell of the horse, it’s so lifelike – and Shawn says he does. As he nears completion of one painting the memory of having been in the barn, sketching and taking pictures of the horse, and studying it all come together and he is transported back to that barn.
Watching Shawn work is just as interesting as the work itself. He walks back and forth, to and fro, looking the work over, adding detail, layering the work. He steps back often and refers to the pictures he took for the painting.
Shawn says he feels like a conductor, “I have an orchestra of pastel, pencil, canvas, how I get this orchestra to play for me to get my vision on canvas.”
Being a big comic book fan as a kid, Shawn has always wanted to be a portrait painter. He studied the line work, the muscles and the dynamic forms. Shawn was fascinated with the human form and that fascination shaped the foundation of his future artwork.
Some of horse racing’s most famous horses and jockeys have graced the canvases of Shawn’s work. He travels along the east coast from horse farm to horse farm and track to track studying the horses, jockeys and tracks for his paintings. He was in attendance during last weekend’s Belmont Stakes, where American Pharoah became the first Triple Crown winner in nearly 40 years.
“I do paint to live, but I live to paint. It’s the only thing I ever wanted to do, it’s the only thing I’m gonna do. I’m so blessed that I get to do what I love to do,” Shawn says.
By any measure Shawn is a successful artist, but how does he measure a painting’s success?
“Its successful to me when I step back and I get that light on it; I get that same beauty or that shine on the muscle, and that’s it, I’m thrilled that I can capture that and even more thrilled when people get it.”
Shawn’s work will be on display in Saratoga Springs, New York, in August or get more information on his website.